Yanks fail to capitalize on lengthy homestand
The schedule has been the Yankees’ ally since Aug. 2 when they were through playing any games outside the Eastern time zone and had 59 percent of the remaining games at home. They failed to take advantage of this situation in the 10-game homestand they completed Wednesday with a dreadfully dull 6-2 loss to Houston.
After beginning the homestand with a three-game sweep of the Twins, the Yankees dropped three of four games to the Indians and two of three to the Astros to finish a lackluster 5-5 while falling out of first place in the American League East.
The Cleveland series was particularly hurtful because the Tribe is a last-place team in the AL Central. As for Houston, these are no longer your father’s Astros. They have spent a good part of this season in first place in the AL West with the league’s top pitching staff and a power-laded if strikeout-prone batting order.
The Yankees were able to grab a 1-0 victory in the series opener but then were outscored by the Astros, 21-3, over the next two games with both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova Tuesday night and Michael Pineda Wednesday, failing to get out of the fourth inning.
Making his first start in a month since coming off the 15-day disabled list because of a right forearm strain, Pineda gave up the first of Evan Gattis’ two home runs in the second inning and came apart in the fourth as the Astros used four hits — including a squeeze bunt — a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch (by Chasen Shreve) to pull away with four runs.
“That inning just got away from him,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Gattis, who had a monster series, connected again in the eighth off Adam Warren for his 22nd home run of the year. The Houston designated hitter was 6-for-12 (.500) with three home runs and six RBI in the series.
The Yankees’ offense consisted of a two-run home run by Didi Gregorius in the seventh inning off eventual winning pitcher Collin McHugh to end a drought of 144 homerless at-bats by the Yanks.
“We’re just not hitting right now,” Girardi said. “That is the root of our problems.”
Talk about an understatement. The Yankees batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs in 91 at-bats against the Astros and were hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“A lot of guys are scuffling at the same time,” Girardi noted.
Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the 3-4 hitters who spearheaded the offense for most of the season, have both hit a wall in August. A-Rod is batting .138 with two home runs and eight RBI in 80 at-bats this month and is down to .255. With the DH not in use in National League parks, Rodriguez will be a bench player in the three-game set at Atlanta that begins Friday night and may benefit from the time off.
Teixeira started only one of the past eight games and got a pinch-hit at-bat Wednesday. He is bothered by a severe bone bruise to his right shin and can barely run. He is a .175 hitter in August with three home runs and six RBI in 57 at-bats as AL Most Valuable Player talk has faded.
Brett Gardner, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday, is hitting .202 with two doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI in 129 at-bats since the All-Star break and has lost 29 points on his season average. Jacoby Ellsbury did not play due to a bruised right hip and is indefinite for Atlanta.
Girardi said he hoped Thursday’s open date would give the club a chance to refresh.
“Guys are working hard but not having a lot of success right now,” he added.